Here's one way to irk Nowitzki

Trash-talking is alive and well in the NBA playoffs, whose legacy includes this barb that Charles Barkley once used to taunt deeply religious A.C. Green: "A.C., if God is so good, how come he didn't give you a jump shot?"

The Associated Press reports that Dallas opponents, trying to get under the skin of forward Dirk Nowitzki, have taken to calling the big German "Irk — because he's got no 'D.' "

Now just a minute

The NCAA, adding to the woes of Michigan's basketball program, put the Wolverines on 3½ years' probation, barred them from postseason play in 2004 and docked the team one scholarship for four years.

It could get worse. With ex-Wolverines star Chris Webber facing trial this summer for perjury and obstruction of justice during a grand-jury investigation, the NCAA reserved the last-minute right to take away some timeouts.

Horse talk

• Michael Ventre of, on Funny Cide becoming the first gelding since 1929 to win the Kentucky Derby: "When the track announcer yelled, 'They're off,' Funny Cide reportedly cracked, 'I know.' "

• Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle, on a 4-year-old colt with an 0-9 record at New York's Finger Lakes Race Track: "Something tells me his owner wasn't expecting much from this horse. His name: Glue."

Shades of the Gashouse Gang

The Cedar Rapids Kernels minor-league team, trying to entice female fans to a "Baseball 101 for Women" pregame clinic, offered up this news release, according to the Los Angeles Times:

"Admit it, ladies. You've been baffled. You've heard of the shortstop and looked for him, but you can't quite figure out who he is because all the players appear to be the same height. (Or) the guy next to you keeps saying how 'that pitcher really has some gas tonight,' and you don't see — or smell — anything."

Which might explain why a strikeout is also known as a whiff.

Quote, end quote

• NBC's Jay Leno, on Sports Illustrated's report claiming former Alabama coach Mike Price had a tryst with two women in his hotel room: "Here's the weird part. After they had sex, three players burst in the room and poured a bucket of Gatorade over the coach."

• Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune, after New Jersey turned down Mike Tyson's bid to fight there: "What does it say when New Jersey thinks you could ruin its image?"

• Bill Scheft of Sports Illustrated, on former president Bill Clinton announcing he will attend this year's Indianapolis 500: "OK, now, everyone together: 'Gentlemen, start your interns!' "

• Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, to the Los Angeles Times, after front-row fan Jack Nicholson went postal on referee Mark Wunderlich during Friday's playoff game: "I just saw 'Anger Management.' I thought I was watching it again."

Once more, with filling

What's the difference between Dick Vitale and a Hostess Twinkie?

The Twinkie, according to Maxim magazine, is only 68 percent air.